Massage therapy is associated with enhancement of the immune system's cytotoxic capacity

Gail Ironson, Tiffany Field, Frank Scafidi, Michiyo Hashimoto, Mahendra Kumar, Adarsh Kumar, Alicia Price, Alex Goncalves, Iris Burman, C. Y. Tetenman, Roberto Patarca, Mary Ann Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

180 Scopus citations


Twenty-nine gay men (20 HIV+, 9 HIV-) received daily massages for one month. A subset of 11 of the HIV+ subjects served as a within subject control group (one month with and one month without massages). Major immune findings for the effects of the month of massage included a significant increase in Natural Killer Cell number. Natural Killer Cell Cytotoxity, soluble CDS, and the cytotoxic subset of CDS cells. There were no changes in HIV disease progression markers (CD4, CD4/CD8 ratio, Beta-2 microglobulin, neopterin). Major neuroendocrine findings, measured via 24 hour urines included a significant decrease in Cortisol, and nonsignificant trends toward decrease of catecholamines. There were also significant decreases in anxiety and increases in relaxation which were significantly correlated with increases in NK cell number. Thus, there appears to be an increase in cytotoxic capacity associated with massage. Implications for HIV+ men as well as those with other illnesses, particularly cancer, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-217
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - 1996


  • Anxiety
  • Cortisol
  • HIV
  • Immunity
  • Massage
  • Natural killer cell
  • NK
  • Relaxation
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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